Narrative Acts: Telling Tales of Life and Love with the Wrong Gender


  • James Valentine University of Stirling



storytelling, narrative, performance, oral history, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, marginalised community


This presentation provides an illustration of performative social science through the world's first project to focus on multi-media storytelling with a nationwide LGBT community for public representation and museum archiving. Where voices are unheard, hidden or suppressed, the images and representations of a community may be stereotyped and discriminatory, constructed about the community by those on the outside. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people have experienced social exclusion and marginalisation, and their stories have been neglected or distorted. Their lives and loves have been characterised as wrong: mistaken in medical or moral terms. OurStory Scotland was established to research, record and celebrate the history and experiences of the LGBT community through their own words. Our approach combines action research and performative social science: it is participatory and emancipatory, developing the knowledge of a community through various modes of storytelling performance. This presentation reviews storytelling methods and themes, that have relevance for marginalised communities where disclosure may be problematic. The narrative acts that make up our stories range from one-liners, through written episodes, to oral history recordings, stories shared in group storytelling and narrative exchange, tales told with and through images, "text out" visual displays, "supporting stars" mapping support as an alternative to the conventional family tree, dramatisation and ceilidh performance. The stories challenge fixed and stereotyped identities, and reveal the centrality of storytelling to leading our lives. They also illustrate the rewards of performative action social research, both for a community researching itself and for dissemination more widely. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0802491


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Author Biography

James Valentine, University of Stirling

James VALENTINE is Chair of OurStory Scotland, based at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Applied Social Science, University of Stirling.




How to Cite

Valentine, J. (2008). Narrative Acts: Telling Tales of Life and Love with the Wrong Gender. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(2).